WELLINGTON: The Marshall Islands has warned that the clock is ticking on climate change and the world needs to act urgently to stop low-lying Pacific nations disappearing beneath the waves.
Marshalls Foreign Minister Phillip Muller issued a plea for action as he prepares for next week’s Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), which includes some of the countries most affected by the rising seas blamed on global warming.
“We want to work as hard as we can to see if there is a possibility of having our islands continue to exist,” said Muller in a telephone interview from the capital Majuro on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
“That’s why we’re calling for urgent action from our friends around the world. The longer we wait, I’m afraid we may reach the point of no return.”
The centerpiece of next week’s summit in the Marshall Islands will be the signing of the Majuro Declaration, which Muller said was an attempt to reinvigorate the international community’s stalled efforts to address climate change.
He said the declaration would set concrete, achievable goals on emissions reductions and climate change mitigation measures for the 15 member states of the PIF, which is mostly made up of developing nations.
Muller said the PIF wanted to set an example to the rest of the world and it would take the declaration to the United Nations in late September and urge other countries to adopt it.
“This is a real issue for us. We’re already experiencing some of the impacts of climate change,” he said.
“So I think morally and practically we are the ones that need to rise up and say ‘something’s got to be done’, not just in rhetoric and in meetings, but in real terms.”
He said the Marshalls, a nation of 55,000 people made up of 29 atolls standing an average two meters above sea level, were on the frontline of climate change.
Areas of the country have been suffering from drought for most of the year, record
king tides inundated Majuro in June and rising seas have eroded seawalls and causeways, as well as turning drinking water brackish and causing crops to fail.
He said the people of the Pacific do not want to become climate change refugees, forced from their homes by the encroaching sea.
Kiribati, a PIF member, has already announced plans to purchase 2,000 hectares of land in Fiji to provide food for the tiny nation and possibly act as a new island home.